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What next in Britain’s Brexit crisis after parliament is suspended?

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows the tellers (L- R) Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, Plaid Cymru MP Ben Lake, Conservative MP Iain Stewart and Conservative MP Stuart Andrew, lining up to report the results on a vote on a motion for an early parliamentary general election in the House of Commons in London on September 10, 2019. PHOTO AFP

British parliament suspended until October 14: government

London, United Kingdom | AFP |  Britain’s parliament on Tuesday began a controversial five-week suspension during a ceremony marred by a protest in which opposition MPs held up signs reading “SILENCED” and shouted “Shame on you!”.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow condemned the move as “an act of executive fiat” and one of the protesting MPs was seen trying to stop him leaving the chamber to take part in the ceremony, which suspends parliament until October 14.

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After MPs rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s second bid to call an early election to solve the Brexit impasse, he is left in limbo heading towards a crucial EU summit next month, just days before Britain’s scheduled exit.

Here are some possible scenarios for the coming weeks:

– Brexit delay

Britain will leave the European Union on October 31 unless it asks the bloc to delay, and the leaders of the other 27 member states agree.

Johnson wants to keep this date, but many MPs fear his threat to leave without agreeing divorce terms with Brussels would cause huge disruption.

In the past week, they have passed a law that would force Johnson to request a three-month delay to Brexit to January 31, 2020, with the option of further delays.

This would take effect if the prime minister has failed to get a divorce deal or somehow persuaded MPs to back a “no deal” exit by October 19.

– Brexit deal –

Johnson could still keep to the October 31 deadline if he manages to secure a deal with the EU that wins the approval of a majority of MPs — but it is a huge task.

His predecessor, Theresa May, reached an agreement with Brussels last year but MPs rejected it three times.

EU leaders have so far refused to reopen the text, and accuse Johnson’s government of failing to come up with any concrete alternative plans.

Johnson had hoped his threat to walk away without a deal would persuade them to renegotiate, and says MPs’ actions have undermined his strategy.

However, he says he believes an agreement is still possible before a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on October 17-18, in time to leave on October 31.

– ‘No deal’ Brexit –

Johnson has said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than delay Brexit, more than three years after Britons voted in a referendum to leave the EU.

His government has indicated it will look for loopholes in the MPs’ legislation in order to allow a “no deal” exit, although it insists it always upholds the law.

There is speculation Johnson could resign rather than ask for a delay, but someone — perhaps a civil servant, or an opposition politician — would have to make the request.

There is a chance EU leaders tire of Britain’s prevarication and refuse to delay Brexit, although the bloc is unwilling to take the blame for a disorderly divorce.

– Early election –

After expelling 21 of his Conservative MPs who rebelled over the Brexit law last week, Johnson no longer has a majority in the 650-seat House of Commons.

This leaves him in an impossible situation, unable to govern, and an election is seen as almost inevitable.

But the timing remains in question.

Johnson had wanted an election on October 15, hoping he would win enough seats in the Commons to force through his Brexit plan.

But the main opposition Labour party said it would only back an election once “no deal” was off the table.

Two-thirds of MPs must support an early election, but parliament is now suspended until October 14.

Talk is now turning to a November poll.

– No Brexit at all? –

If Johnson wins a subsequent election, or can forge a pact with the eurosceptic Brexit Party, he could still force through a “no deal” divorce in the months ahead.

If Labour wins, the party has promised to hold a new referendum, with an option to remain in the European Union — which could see Brexit cancelled.

 

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